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Carlsbad's Blue Ocean Sushi + Robata

The Love Boat Sushi group takes it to the next level

Spanish mackerel nigiri
Spanish mackerel nigiri
Place

Blue Ocean Sushi and Robata

2958 Madison Street, Carlsbad

The Love Boat sushi restaurants aren’t upscale. They’re fun, in an “eat sushi till you drop” kind of way, but there’s nothing special there, and that’s using the word “sushi” in its broadest sense. Blue Ocean Sushi and Robata Grill, which is owned by the Love Boat, is another matter entirely. It’s no food court stalwart; with chic design from Bells and Whistles (Starlite Lounge, among others), the place got a big facelift over its former life as Chin’s. Ample, diffuse lighting; lightly stained wood; and elegantly customized fixtures make the place look like diners should expect to spend a pretty penny. Surprisingly, the menu opens to reveal fairly reasonable pricing, such that dinner for two will probably run closer to $60 or $70. It could get more expensive if diners delve into the excellent menu of cocktails and Japanese whiskey.

Chopped scallop nigiri

A certain heavy-handedness in the sushi preparation — rice allowed to soak up sauce, inconsistent fish temperatures, et cetera — reflects Blue Ocean’s connection to the Love Boat at some points, but the overall experience is good. Fresh-tasting rice with a hot, dry (for sushi rice) consistency delights more than expected. Small, saving graces give the otherwise clumsy sushi a second chance. Take the scallop nigiri, for instance. It’s generous, but the chopped scallops fall out of their little gunkan in a most unappealing fashion. This can be a bad order in most places, but Blue Ocean pulled a brilliant move, concealing a slice of shiso leaf beneath the scallops, thus elevating the dish. If only they had labelled it as kizami hotate so that diners could know they were getting a chopped scallop order...

Escolar, aka "white tuna" nigiri

Nevertheless, that kind of pleasant surprise characterizes Blue Ocean’s sushi service, moreso than the inherent clumsiness of simply not being Ota, Tadokoro, Akinori, et. al. Being able to get live abalone sashimi (!) and bluefin tuna (which lots of places “regret not having today” when you order it) is just icing on the cake.

Chicken hearts

The charcoal-burning robata grill tries to steal the show when it can. Skewered meats run pricier by several dollars than they would from a more modest yakitori grill, but that’s too be expected given the enjoyable surroundings. Yuzukosho, maybe the world’s best condiment, makes a surprise appearance on the skewered chicken hearts. Given that, there is zero need for the generous sprinkle of sea salt crusting the hearts.

Pork belly

The pork belly also comes across as salty, though more fatty and delightful than anything else.

All told, it’s hard to find major fault with the yakitori offerings, though the price of some dishes ($9 for a single skewer of seabass?!) makes the wallet yearn for Yakitori Yakyudori or Tek Chan’s friendlier pricing.

Cashew salad

The enormous menu doesn’t stop at sushi and robata. Courtesy of some very small print, a vast array of dinner plates, tapas, and salads manage to squeeze into a few narrow menu pages. Consider the cashew salad, served as a weird and unexpected lettuce wrap, it’s more delicious than it should be, and carries Chinese takeout memories of #45, chicken with cashew nuts.

Considering its pedigree, Blue Ocean comes off as a tremendous surprise, but an altogether pleasant one. Small quibbles aside, this place is nearly worth the trip to North County for urban San Diegans. In conjunction with a Carlsbad beach trip, it’s really worth a shot.

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Spanish mackerel nigiri
Spanish mackerel nigiri
Place

Blue Ocean Sushi and Robata

2958 Madison Street, Carlsbad

The Love Boat sushi restaurants aren’t upscale. They’re fun, in an “eat sushi till you drop” kind of way, but there’s nothing special there, and that’s using the word “sushi” in its broadest sense. Blue Ocean Sushi and Robata Grill, which is owned by the Love Boat, is another matter entirely. It’s no food court stalwart; with chic design from Bells and Whistles (Starlite Lounge, among others), the place got a big facelift over its former life as Chin’s. Ample, diffuse lighting; lightly stained wood; and elegantly customized fixtures make the place look like diners should expect to spend a pretty penny. Surprisingly, the menu opens to reveal fairly reasonable pricing, such that dinner for two will probably run closer to $60 or $70. It could get more expensive if diners delve into the excellent menu of cocktails and Japanese whiskey.

Chopped scallop nigiri

A certain heavy-handedness in the sushi preparation — rice allowed to soak up sauce, inconsistent fish temperatures, et cetera — reflects Blue Ocean’s connection to the Love Boat at some points, but the overall experience is good. Fresh-tasting rice with a hot, dry (for sushi rice) consistency delights more than expected. Small, saving graces give the otherwise clumsy sushi a second chance. Take the scallop nigiri, for instance. It’s generous, but the chopped scallops fall out of their little gunkan in a most unappealing fashion. This can be a bad order in most places, but Blue Ocean pulled a brilliant move, concealing a slice of shiso leaf beneath the scallops, thus elevating the dish. If only they had labelled it as kizami hotate so that diners could know they were getting a chopped scallop order...

Escolar, aka "white tuna" nigiri

Nevertheless, that kind of pleasant surprise characterizes Blue Ocean’s sushi service, moreso than the inherent clumsiness of simply not being Ota, Tadokoro, Akinori, et. al. Being able to get live abalone sashimi (!) and bluefin tuna (which lots of places “regret not having today” when you order it) is just icing on the cake.

Chicken hearts

The charcoal-burning robata grill tries to steal the show when it can. Skewered meats run pricier by several dollars than they would from a more modest yakitori grill, but that’s too be expected given the enjoyable surroundings. Yuzukosho, maybe the world’s best condiment, makes a surprise appearance on the skewered chicken hearts. Given that, there is zero need for the generous sprinkle of sea salt crusting the hearts.

Pork belly

The pork belly also comes across as salty, though more fatty and delightful than anything else.

All told, it’s hard to find major fault with the yakitori offerings, though the price of some dishes ($9 for a single skewer of seabass?!) makes the wallet yearn for Yakitori Yakyudori or Tek Chan’s friendlier pricing.

Cashew salad

The enormous menu doesn’t stop at sushi and robata. Courtesy of some very small print, a vast array of dinner plates, tapas, and salads manage to squeeze into a few narrow menu pages. Consider the cashew salad, served as a weird and unexpected lettuce wrap, it’s more delicious than it should be, and carries Chinese takeout memories of #45, chicken with cashew nuts.

Considering its pedigree, Blue Ocean comes off as a tremendous surprise, but an altogether pleasant one. Small quibbles aside, this place is nearly worth the trip to North County for urban San Diegans. In conjunction with a Carlsbad beach trip, it’s really worth a shot.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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